"A duck cannot be black, a duck must be yellow" and with that the teacher grabbed the colouring sheet, scrunched it up, threw it in the bin and handed out another one. “Start again,” she told him “and make sure it is yellow.” I sat across the table, watching, stunned into silence. I was on duty that day – at my son’s preschool. Silently and diligently the children were busy completing their set activities but in that moment, the school I had researched so carefully, applied for with hopeful expectations, suddenly came apart at the seams.
When looking for a prospective school, we attended open days, information sessions and met with future principals. We asked lots of questions and tried to find our way in a sea of answers. When the decision was finally made we felt a huge sense of relief that we had found a school that would be great for our son and met our philosophy about education.
Yet relief was the furthest emotion I was feeling each afternoon when I picked up my little boy from his class, sad faced and sullen. At first I thought it was just the normal struggle every child goes through to adjust to school. But when I saw no improvement and the reluctance to go to school went from difficult to extreme, I volunteered my time at the school to see what was really going on. It did not take many sessions to work it out. The school advertised in the information sessions and open days was far from the school that functioned between 9am and 3pm every day. In the end, we pulled him out and went back to the drawing board.
Across Australia information sessions and open days are rolling out across schools looking for the new 2015 intake of students. Many parents face the daunting, if not challenging decision, of choosing the right school for their little one to start at next year.
I asked Denyse Whelan, a retired school principal and now a K-6 School Education Consultant, what parents need to look for when choosing a school. “I never recommend one school or schooling type over another to families, because it is a decision only parents can make for their child,” she said. However, she did encourage parents facing the decision to complete the actions below:
1. Determine whether the school is within your zone.
2. Engage in conversations with family and friends about possible schools.
3. Attend Open Days and Parent Information Sessions.
4. Ask lots of open ended questions:
5. How many students do you estimate will be commencing school next year?
6. When do I need to enroll my child?
7. What if I change my mind?
8. How will my child learn about being at school before coming to school?
9. What is your school’s Orientation Program?
10. What would you expect my child to understand about your school and being at school before starting?
11. Will your school take into account my child’s needs?
12. What can I do to at home to see that my child is ready to start at your school next year?
Eventually we enrolled our son in a new school where ducks could be any colour he liked. After following all the right processes and asking all the right questions, we valued our gut instinct more this time round, and the happy, beaming face of our little boy at the end of each school day confirms we made the right decision.
Josefa Pete is a freelance writer and mother to two boys. You can follow her on Facebook or at www.alwaysjosefa.com